Navitime Japan Travel Instagram Competition

Mt. Rausu from the trail to Lake Rausu

A friend of mine who works on the NAVITIME for Japan Travel website has an on-going Instagram competition. Hit the link for more details. You can win “special prize packs” and a chance to have your photo displayed at the Haneda International Airport station.

I have no idea what’s in those “special prize packs”. Hopefully massive wads of money (probably not).

The above photo is one of my entries. It’s a photo of Mt. Rausu (Rausu-dake 羅臼岳) I took 2 years ago on my first trip to the Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園), a World Natural Heritage in Hokkaido. I had actually summited the mountain the day before the picture was taken. And in September last year, I climbed Mt. Rausu again with some friends, then continued on to the next 6 mountains on a 3-day trek called the Shiretoko Traverse.

Shiretoko place is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in Japan!

If you have any good photographs from your trips to Japan, you might want to join the contest. Or don’t so my odds of winning get better.


Uramyougi-san hike


Last Monday, a friend invited me to go hiking with her and some friends up Uramyougi-san (裏妙義山), a mountain in Gunma prefecture. It wasn’t a particularly long hike at only about 6 hours to the top and back to the car.

The highlight of the hike was Chousu no Kashira (丁須の頭), pictured below. It sits at about 1,100 meters. Also, the photo above was actually taken from the top of that interesting looking rock.

Chousu no Kashira: I don’t know what the name means. I’ve also seen it referred to as Hammer Rock and The Mushroom

It looks pretty small in the picture, but it’s actually about 5 meters high. There’s a chain attached to the top and hanging down one side so you can climb up to the top, but you’ll need a climbing harness… Unless you don’t mind the possibility of a 15-ish meter fall!

Here’s another picture (stolen) from someone else’s blog (sorry!) for a better frame of reference:

Stolen from:

More photos from the hike:

Roland at the top of Hammer Rock
Viviana and Roland at the base of The Mushroom
Map of the area at the trail entrance
Map close up
Start of the hike
Several locations had chains going up (and down) the mountain. Definitely not a hike you’d want to go on if it’s even a little bit wet.


Lots of sketchy places on the way down, like this one…
And this one…
AND this one, called “The Chimney”, which I’d say is about a 10 meter vertical climb.

If you do plan to go on this hike I will reiterate that, depending on your route, you’ll likely want to have a climbing harness/carabiners. And as I mentioned, be sure it’s a dry day.

Safe climbing!

Photosphere of Nagatadake (Mt. Nagata in Yakushima)

I got an email from Google the other day saying that my photosphere picture from the peak of Nagatadake (永田岳 – Mt. Nagata) has received over 300,000 views. Yay! I wish I could earn money from that, haha.

In case you don’t know what a photosphere is, it’s basically a 360 degree panoramic photo that you can take using the Google Camera app. On the photosphere above, use your mouse (or your finger) to move the viewpoint around. If you move the photo all the way sideways 180 degrees, you’ll see my friend next to the peak marker, looking out into the ocean.

She and I climbed this mountain last year in the spring. It’s on the island of Yakushima (屋久島), a world heritage natural site famous for inspiring the setting of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.

Nagatadake is not a popular destination among visitors of Yakushima. Most folks seem to have not even heard about it at all, and the typical itinerary is:

This was actually what our itinerary more or less looked like initially, but we ended up adding Nagatadake on the suggestion of a hiker we met along the way. He said that the views from the top were much more spectacular than on Miyanouradake. And he was right!

If you’re hiking up Miyanouradake, you might as well check out it out. Nagatadake is only about a 30 to 40 minute detour (one way), so it’s relatively near. In fact, in the photosphere above, you can see that it’s pretty close. That mountain in the distance is actually Miyanouradake.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip:

On a big rock called Taiko-iwa at Shiratani Unsuikyo
Flute player inside the remains of an old tree called “Wilson Kabu”. It’s on the way to Jomon Sugi.
Jomon Sugi – a giant tree around 7,000 years old
Me on the way to Nagatadake, on our second day on the trail. If you look closely in the distance, you can see a big rock. That’s where those guys in the first picture were sitting.